Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson appeared on CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. Pending a transcript, it appeared that Joe Wilson implicitly challenged the reliability of Walter Pincus of the Washington Post. Mr. Wilson claimed that a Washington Post reporter (on a story with Mr. Pincus' byline) "misattributed" quotes to Joe Wilson in the Washington Post story cited in the Senate investigation of intelligence failures. [The transcript confirms this, below]
In the interview with Wolf Blitzer Wilson essentially recycled his defense presented in the Washington Post and Salon. However, new ground was broken when Wolf Blitzer asked him about the misleading information reportedly given by Wilson to the Washington Post. Wilson's explanation to the Senate staff was that he "mis-spoke". His new explanation to Wolf Blitzer was that he had not read the story the staffers were asking about; he sees now that it has several sources, so he actually mis-spoke to the Senate staff - he should have said that he was "misattributed" by the reporter.
Our thought - oh, please. The Senate staff had (we imagine) supporting evidence, and possibly statements from the reporters themselves (Wilson's role in this had already been reported by the WaPo). For Wilson to change his story now, when we the people can't see all the evidence, is a bit slim.
Is it unreasonable to think that Susan Schmidt checked with the other WaPo reporters before printing this charge? If the Senate report is wrong, that is news - why is the Post keeping it quiet?
And is it unreasonable to think that Walter Pincus, who printed the story describing what Wilson reported, and relied on Wilson as a source, checked with Wilson before describing the nature of Wilson's report? We wonder whether Mr. Pincus appreciates having his journalistic skills challenged on national television.
Finally, Mr. Wilson wrote a lengthy letter to the Washington Post ombudsman - wouldn't that be a more appropriate forum to present these charges?
As a bit of an aside, in the course of a wide-ranging interview, Acting CIA Director McLaughlin was asked whether Ms. Plame had recommended Mr. Wilson for the trip to Niger. He declined to answer, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
That is a stock excuse, of course, but it does not jibe with the Josh Marshall argument that her involvement is legally irrelevant.
More interview notes below:
UPDATE 2: The transcript is up. Soundbite:
BLITZER: So when the committee says that you told them you had misspoken, what did you misspeak?
WILSON: Well, actually, what I misspoke was, when I misspoke to the committee, when I spoke to the staff -- this interview took place 15 months after The Washington Post article appeared. I did not have a chance to review the article. They did not show me the article.
They threw it out there, and the question I took as being a rather generic question: Could you have misspoken? Yes, I am male, I'm over 50. By definition, I can misspeak. I have gone back since and taken a look at this particular article. It refers to an unidentified former government official. If it is referring to me, it is a misattribution, of facts that were already in the public domain and had been so since March.
My first public statement on this, in my own words, was on July 6th.
A rather generic question, just a casual chat with some Senate investigators trying to figure out whether there was some sort of security hiccup in the flow of classified information. Reading the report, the staff clearly spent time on this question of who knew what and when about the forgeries. Maybe they should have alerted Mr. Wilson to the fact that this was not a casual investigation; maybe the Dem staffers should have asked him whether he was comfortable with his answer, or offered him a copy of the article in question.
Let's be clear - these forgeries are the subject of an FBI investigation; Seymour Hersh has alleged (debunked here) that rogue CIA agents planted them. The Senate staff asked each person in the Wilson meeting whether they had discussed documents with Wilson (no one remembered doing so). This was not a matter the staff was taking casually.
One hopes that Mr. Pincus of the Washington Post can shed some light on this allegation of sloppy journalistic practice - misattributed quotes are not what WaPo readers expect.
Michael Getler: email@example.com
Walter Pincus: firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Schmidt's email is not listed, but, in looking at the directory, I detect a pattern which would suggest that this might work: email@example.com.
And a concluding Bold Prediction, in the form of a song: "Joe's just a man who's intentions are good/ Oh man, please don't let him say he was misunderstood". Which will be his next fall-back, when he explains that the quote is correct, but in a more complicated context. Since Nick Kristof staggered to the same misunderstanding, we will be skeptical. Just guessing.
Wolf Blitzer hit on several points. He displayed and read the excerpt from the Senate report describing Ms. Plame's involvement. Joe Wilson's explanation - his wife was a conduit only, the CIA had his name from a 1999 trip, and the memo prepared by his wife which cited his qualifications was simply in response to a request for something like a resume.
[One wonders why his resume was not on file, since, as the Senate report makes clear, they did have his name from the 1999 trip. There is also a suggestion that his wife suggested him for thattrip, IIRC]
Asked about the section of the Senate report where a CIA officers is quoted as saying that Ms. Plame "offered up" his name. Wilson argues that the quote is out of context, although he admitted to having no idea what the full context had been.
He also repeats his "believe the anonymous leaks" defense.
Wolf asks about the leaks of "misleading information" to the Washington Post, pointing out that Wilson's explanation to the senate staff was "I mis-spoke."
Wilson gives more detail here - when the Senate asked him about those stories, he did not re-read them. He has since learned that the stories had several sources, so when he "mis-spoke" it was to the Senate staff - he should have said that he was "misattributed".
And what about the trade mission, Wolf Blitzer wonders - how did that get left out of your early accounts?
Wilson explains that there were several unimportant Iraqi-Niger contacts, and that eventually the CIA gave up on the story. Therfore, we are left to conclude, what he said was essentially accurate.
Wolf Blitzer asks whether there is anything he would like to take back; Wilson admits that, although it is a surprise to him, he has to admit that apparently Cheney was not briefed on his report.
And Mr. Wilson informs us that this is an orchestrated smear campaign, which explains that tingling in my dental fillings.